Chaves can reach the top again, says White

Colombian climber back in training ahead of 2019 return

Esteban Chaves has been back on the bike for almost two months, with the Mitchelton-Scott team confident the Colombian climber can return to his best form.

Chaves has not raced since the Giro d'Italia in May and was diagnosed with mononucleosis soon after. The 28-year-old's condition was only made public in late summer, by which point he had returned to training, albeit with a gentle recovery programme.

The Vuelta a España came and went - with Chaves' teammate Simon Yates claiming the overall title - but the goal is for Chaves to make a comeback in the new year, with either a race debut in Australia or his native Colombia. He has previously used the Tour Down Under and the Herald Sun Tour as his first races of the year.

"He's been back on the bike a while," Mitchelton-Scott directeur sportif Matt White told Cyclingnews on Monday.

"He had two months off and from August onwards he's been a very slow programme and been building up as we help him get back for next season."

Chaves came into the 2018 season with high hopes after a turbulent 2017 that was punctured by a persistent knee injury and then a lack of top form. This campaign rapidly fell apart after his Giro stage win, although he completed the race. The Mitchelton rider made the podium in both the Vuelta and Giro in 2016, and his squad are confident that he can return to that level again.

"There's a plan to try and get him back into racing but you've got to take those plans week-by-week," said White. "Of course, there are targets, and we have to monitor him constantly. We have been really conservative with his comeback. He's a really good chance of coming back to his best.

"We have a race plan for him but we need to see how the training goes. Depending on the recovery he could come back to racing in either Australia in January or in Colombia in February. It's going to be an early start, and then we'll plan to have him back in Europe from March and doing some more races from that point."

Timing and patience are key in Chaves' return to the top of the sport but, as cycling has seen with Mark Cavendish and Beñat Intxausti, there is no exact timeframe for a return from mononucleosis.

"I don't see the missing of racing as the issue," White added.

"It’s all about being healthy and if he’s healthy then he can get back to the top level. That break from racing is what he needed but every case of this is different and you can see that from how other riders have come back from the same virus."

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